Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case
The Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case honour outstanding Canadians who have enhanced the quality of life for women and girls and advanced gender equality in Canada. They are celebrated each year to recognize the efforts of dedicated professionals, volunteers, advocates, and inspiring role models.
Recipients of these awards exemplify the courage, integrity and hard work demonstrated by the Famous Five of the Persons Case.
The Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case were established in 1979 to mark the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking Persons Case.
Award recipients are selected by an independent jury. Each year, the jury considers nominations submitted by individuals or groups following an open nomination period. Recipients are chosen from among the individuals nominated. Status of Women Canada is responsible for the administration of the Persons Case Awards,
The 2017 recipients of the Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case were:
Betsy Bury – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Micheline Dumont – Sherbrooke, Quebec
Dr. Ramona Lumpkin – Halifax, Nova Scotia
Elizabeth Sheehy – Ottawa, Ontario
Linda Slanina – Kitimat, British Columbia
Melissa Sariffodeen – Toronto, Ontario (youth recipient)
While nominations are accepted year round, the deadline for nominating someone for the 2018 awards is July 4, 2018. Get inspired by visiting the Status of Women Canada website, which includes a list of past recipients, videos, and the nomination package.
Persons Day is celebrated in Canada each year on October 18th.
This occasion marks the pivotal moment in 1929 when five Canadian women – Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, and Nellie McClung – won the right for women to be legally recognized as “persons” in Canada.
The historic decision to include women in the legal definition of “persons” was handed down by Canada’s highest court of appeal – the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of Great Britain. This gave women the right to be appointed to the Senate of Canada and paved the way for women’s increased participation in public and political life.
The Famous Five
In 1927, Emily Murphy and four other prominent Canadian women – Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards – asked the Supreme Court of Canada to answer the question: Does the word “person” in Section 24 of the British North America Act include female persons? After five weeks of debate and argument, the Supreme Court of Canada decided that the word “person” did not include women.
The five women were shocked by the Supreme Court’s decision but did not give up the fight. They took their case to London, England, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of Great Britain, which, at the time, was Canada’s highest court of appeal. They not only won the right for women to serve in the Senate but helped pave the way for women to participate equally in – and contribute equally to – all other aspects of life in Canada.
These five women have become known as the Famous Five. They were journalists, magistrates and politicians who were influenced by a number of reform movements of the early twentieth century. Their arduous legal quest, which began in 1927, resulted in a milestone victory and was a turning point for equality rights in Canada.